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As with Gulf Spill, Mine Disasters, and Katrina, Warnings About Japan's Reactor Went Ignored

For many companies, it's still profit over people when it comes to safety.

As the whole world readies itself for a nuclear catastrophe in Japan, where workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are currently trying to prevent a meltdown, news comes that people have known for decades about the dangers of GE's Mark 1 reactor, the reactor at the heart of the Fukushima Daiichi trouble.

As far back as 1972, reports The New York Times, regulators warned that "if the cooling systems ever failed at a Mark 1 nuclear reactor, the primary containment vessel surrounding the reactor would probably burst as the fuel rods inside overheated. Dangerous radiation would spew into the environment." Despite this warning, however, nobody did anything about it, and now millions of people's lives are in jeopardy. Why the hell does this always happen?

Compare the Mark 1 warnings to this story about the "gross negligence" that led to disaster in Hurricane Katrina:

Over the years, the marshy banks of the channel had widened significantly in spots—and long before Katrina hit, experts had warned that the destruction of wetlands could create a funnel effect that would intensify storm surges.


Or this story about 2010's West Virginia mine explosion:

The West Virginia mine where at least 25 workers died Monday in an explosion was written up more than 50 times last month for safety violations. Twelve of the citations involved problems with ventilating the mine and preventing a buildup of deadly methane.


Or this story about the BP oil spill, the worst environmental disaster in American history:

BP officials knew about a problem on a crucial well safety device at least three months before the catastrophic April 20 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico but failed to repair it, according to testimony Tuesday from the company's well manager.


Or this story about the mining firm that owned the site where 33 Chilean miners became trapped deep underground in August 2010:

Between 2004 and 2010, the firm was understood to have accumulated 42 fines from various safety bodies for failing to protect its workers and in 2007 the mine was closed until it was able to show it had met required safety levels. It reopened in 2008.


Are you seeing the pattern here? Time and again, in the wake of some unspeakable tragedy, we find that that unspeakable tragedy could have been avoided if those in power had simply heeded the warning signs. Instead, the warnings go unnoticed or ignored, and people end up dead.

Why is this so often the case? Simple: profit. In reviewing the Mark 1 reactor in 1972, one official from the Atomic Energy Commission noted that the dangerous design's only real value was that it was "cost saving." So cost saving that its currently being used in 23 of America's 104 nuclear reactors.

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